It is a long ordeal that ends for the French Olympic football team. After an inaugural slap against Mexico (4-1) and a miraculous victory against South Africa (4-3), the Blues could still hope to qualify for the quarter-finals before starting the last match of the group against Japan, Wednesday July 28.
But very quickly overwhelmed, defensively crumbly and even ending at 10 against 11 after a red card received by Kolo Muani for a sole, Sylvain Rippoll’s players took another slap by conceding a heavy defeat against Japan (4-0), synonymous with elimination. Eleven goals conceded in three games is the worst total for a French football team at the Olympic Games since 1908. The only light on the table in this gloomy tournament is striker André-Pierre Gignac who played his role as leader on the field and which allowed the Blues to hope, thanks in particular to a hat-trick against South Africa.
But, from the start, the task was complicated for this young team, composed mainly of players born after 1997 as provided for in the rules of the football tournament at the Olympic Games. Coach Sylvain Rippoll has, in fact, had the greatest difficulty in building his team. As the Olympic football tournament did not fit into the FIFA calendar, clubs were not obliged to release their players, unlike a World Cup or a Euro. It was therefore necessary to negotiate at length when the teams are currently in full physical preparation for the coming season.
After bitter discussions – and a failed bluff by the French Football Federation – Sylvain Ripoll was able to select 21 players, but few with references at the highest level. As provided for in the regulations, however, he was able to call three “elders”: André-Pierre Gignac, Florian Thauvin who both play in Mexico and Montpellier’s Teji Savanier. In comparison, Spain advanced in the tournament with six players having participated in Euro football a few weeks before.
It was therefore necessary to tinker in record time with only a few weeks of preparation and just a friendly match against South Korea. So if André-Pierre Gignac and Florian Thauvin posed the ambition before the start of the tournament “To go get a medal”, the first game against Mexico quickly showed that it was going to be complicated. Faced with a team that has a real Olympic culture, which won it gold at the 2012 London Olympics, and players who know each other, the Blues were no match (4-1). The weak points were quickly obvious: a young defense and showing a lot of naivety, attackers who are not found, a Thauvin not at his best level …
Already very criticized and close to elimination, the Blues nevertheless had the mental strength to win in the last minutes of their second match, against South Africa. While they were led 3-2 at the 86e, the France team got away with two goals from Gignac and Savanier in the last minutes of the meeting, giving hope for a start. “We offered ourselves a final against Japan. After every goal [sud-africain], we felt a little more on the plane [du retour], but we were able to come back every time. We didn’t want to go back to France ”, then launched the attacker and French captain. For his part, Sylvain Rippoll greeted the “Pride reaction” of his group and could still hope for a qualification for the quarter-finals.
“Botching Games like that is not terrible”
But quickly against Japan, the same mistakes seen in the first two meetings returned. And the host country quickly takes the lead thanks to goals from Kubo (27e) and former Olympique de Marseille player Hiroki Sakaï (34e). On the brink, France must even do without Savanier who must leave his teammates in the 38e minute after receiving a blow. After Japan scored a third goal by Miyoshi (70e), the Blues ended the meeting at 10 following a red card received by Kolo Muani for a sole. They even conceded a fourth goal in added time.
Another defeat in this bitter-tasting tournament for Gignac at the end of the meeting: “When you take eleven goals, it’s not easy, and we have seen that taking the Games seriously is important. (…) I hope that in 2024, as it is at home, they will make the necessary team to go as far as possible. Botched Games like that and put your country in trouble is not terrible. ”
This elimination therefore marks the end of a very complicated summer for the French football teams: elimination in the quarter-finals in the Euro Espoirs; in the round of 16 for the Blues of Didier Deschamps; and in hens, therefore, for the French Olympic team.
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